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Addressing Physician Burnout

According to a recent study by McKinsey, 61% of physicians in children's hospitals are experiencing at least one dimension of burnout (Baer et al, 2014). Sharpen is addressing these challenges in multiple ways:

1. Sharpen provides evidence-based tools that improve physician and front line health worker mental health literacy, decrease stigma and improve resiliency, competency and confidence in addressing mental health issues with patients.

2. Sharpen provides toolkits that can be deployed (de-identified) from medical professionals directly to patients to improve the patient understanding of mental wellness and resiliency.

3. We improve medical student and resident mental health literacy through an evidence-based program designed with and for medical students.

Each approach is outlined below.

Why physician mental health matters.

One in five pediatricians plans to leave their job in the next year, and nearly half of those considering leaving in the next five years plan to leave medicine entirely.

  • At least one third of practicing pediatricians suffer from burnout syndrome (Al-Youbi & Jan, 2013).

  • A total of 152 pediatric fellows were surveyed "most reported believing that their program directors (78%), attending physicians (72%), and patients (82%) hold negative attitudes about mental illness and its treatment; 68% believed that employers would reject their application if they knew they sought counseling. Fellows with burnout were more likely to believe that others in the clinical learning environment hold negative views of help seeking for behavioral health. (Aronson, 2021)."

Tools to improve physician mental health literacy.

Since our inception in 2014, Sharpen has worked to develop tools that support medical provider's mental wellness. In 2020 the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) awarded a grant to create peer focused documentary film modules that support the mental health and wellbeing of physicians and front line health workers.

The "Mindful MATTERS" toolkit includes hundreds of mental health modules that support and enhance health worker mental health literacy. We deployed the toolkit in 2020 at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System with hundreds of active users engaging in emotional and wellness content. The associates engaged in over 151 courses and 1,396 "connect" clicks to crisis support or mental health support services. Mental health topics included:

  • Childhood trauma and abuse

  • Health worker family stress

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Childhood resiliency

  • Setting boundaries

  • "5 Minute Mindfulness" for kids

  • Mindful eating

  • National parenting resources

  • Stress and the nervous system

  • Title IX and reporting

  • Affirmations

  • Covid stress reduction

  • Exercise addiction

  • Frontline COVID stress

  • Managing stress

Tools physicians and health workers can deploy to improve patient (and family) mental health

In 2022 we began deploying a version of Sharpen that pediatricians and health workers can "prescribe" directly to patients and their parents while on a wait list for mental health services, in addition to a suicide prevention toolkit for providers who are facing crisis situations.

Most notably, this toolkit is being utilized as part of a suicide prevention initiative throughout New York City whereby social workers, licensed clinicians and health workers deploy protective content to clients in distress.

Tools to improve medical student mental health

With researchers at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), the Sharpen team has worked to develop a specific toolkit to support medical students and residents. Findings from the study were presented at the 2023 American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) - Annal Education Leaders Conference.

  • A customized version of the Sharpen service called "MindfulMEDS" was developed with peer-focused interactive modules specific to the medical student population. A mixed-methods approach including surveys and focus groups assessed participant resiliency, demographic information, perception of mental health, and evaluation of the app.

  • A total of 215 users were registered in MindfulMEDS, consumed over 83 mental health literacy courses and engaged in 1,428 “connect clicks” to community resources and crisis-response supports. A significant decrease in the perception of mental health stigma associated with utilizing mental health resources was observed. Focus group participants reported the screening tools to be useful and encouraged expansion to share the tools with patients.



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